The building contractor counted out- “8..9..10” and pushed the money into Charan’s hands. Charan bowed to him with exceeding happiness and utmost pleasure for having just received his first ever salary. His eyes caught the bruise on his left hand, which chanced sometime while lifting bricks all day. But for now no pain was a pain that would engulf his happiness. The clock struck 6 and the sun sank down the west which all meant that it was time to head back to his small home. He washed, tidied himself, hung his lunch carrier onto his shoulder and began walking home. He felt it heavier than usual on his shoulders and that’s when it struck to him that he had not had his lunch this afternoon. He never enjoyed his grandmother’s scolding for bringing back the lunch box untouched. He spotted a small, empty parkland to his right hand side and entered it & found himself a bench to have his sunset lunch. He spread a cloth across the dusty bench, placed the lunch box on it and began eating. As he ate, he wondered what all he could do with his first earning. The first thing, he thought would be to tell grandmother that she need not work anymore. Then he thought he should save some money and buy a bicycle for himself. Meanwhile, he noticed a middle aged person with a stolid look on his face arrive and sit on the bench situated opposite to him. The weather was cold and the man was well covered with a woolen sweater and a muffler. It struck to him that he should also buy a sweater for his grandmother. He felt elated.
The old lady Lakshmi just arrived at her small home. She was tired of cleaning houses and washing vessels the whole day. She looked out for her grandson Charan if he had come back from work, but he hadn’t. She thought she should save some money and buy him a bicycle. She spread out a floor mat, and sat on it exhausted. Her weak body couldn’t handle this stress as it used to all these days, she thought. She almost fell asleep but then she got up and headed into the kitchen recollecting that Charan would return home hungry any time now.
Charan continued eating, with his mind wandering all over the place. He hardly realized that he had eaten everything and the box was empty now. That’s when he closed the box, wiped his mouth and hands, neatly folded the cloth, hanged the carrier back onto his shoulder and stood up to leave. He got shocked when he saw the man who was sitting opposite to him, fallen down unconsciously. He hurried towards him, shook him, sprinkled some water from his bottle on him, but the man dint respond. He checked for breath and he was relieved learning that the man was breathing. He looked out if anyone were around, but no one. He ran to the gate to see if he could find anyone on the road but to his bad luck, again no one. The sun had departed and the road was pitch dark without the street-lights. He scanned through the left and right sides of the street. His eyes discovered a ‘Nursing-Home’ at the right end of the street. He ran back to the man and contemplated how he could carry the man to the nursing home. He could see no other option but to carry him on his shoulders. After being accustomed to carrying loads of cement bags at his work, he had it in him to carry the man over his shoulders. Doing so, he hurried along the dark street towards the nursing home.
Lakshmi had prepared a dish with whatever little she had at home. She transferred it into two plates, covered them and kept it aside waiting for Charan to arrive. She went upto the main door and sat at the entrance gazing at the sky feeling helpless about her impecunious state of living. Her home was situated in such an isolated place that mosquitoes and stray dogs were their only neighbours. A cold breeze blew and she wrapped herself tightly with her hands. She thought she should buy a woolen sweater for her grandson who would have to travel daily in this cold weather. She looked into the night sky and got immersed into thoughts.
The stretcher was brought and Charan transferred the man onto it and they rushed him inside the nursing home. Charan found a seat for himself and sat there worried. The hospital staff informed the man’s family, through the cell phone they had found in his pocket. Charan wanted to leave, but decided to wait until he heard from the doctor. Meanwhile, the man’s family arrived with worried looks on their faces. And then, the doctor came out of the room and informed the family members that he was out of danger. Charan felt relieved and then felt ambivalent if he should talk to the family members or just walk off. For a fact, he was never avaricious. Since the family members were in a state of shock, Charan decided to leave. He walked hurriedly towards home as his grandmother would be worried of his late coming.
Lakshmi still sat at the door now feeling a bit tensed about Charan not yet arriving home. A small pain in her chest began but it went unnoticed, as she was worrying about her grandson. But the pain loomed larger. She felt a prick in her heart. Her breathing became harder, faster and shorter. She felt her heart contracting. With one hand on her chest she tried to stand up to fetch some water for herself. As she stood, she felt an intense pull from her heart and felt air being almost pumped out of her and within no time she collapsed and fell. She reposed with her head resting on the door frame and the rest of the body extending outside of her home.
Charan, who was walking briskly, now as he came closer to the house began sprinting excitedly. He wanted to say to her that he had saved a life today. His running stopped abruptly at the entrance of his home. His grandmother was lying there. He moved forward silently, fell to his knees, checked her breath but there was nothing. He looked around but he could find no one. He looked at the sky, he looked left and right, he fluttered to and fro around her with his legs trembling and he called out his grandmother hoping he could get a reply. He felt numb. He walked to the door, sat next to her, lifted and rested her head on his lap and sat staring at her face. His tears dripped onto her forehead, he wiped it and said as if he was talking to her- “ I saved a life today… but ……” tears hurried through his cheeks.
Charan spent his first salary for his grandmother’s final journey.
( Tried something different from my usual. Let me know.)